April 25, 2006


Michigan pulling itself out of slump (Haya El Nasser, 4/25/06, USA TODAY)

Detroit, Michigan's most populous city, has shrunk by more than 50,000 people this decade to about 900,000. Its biggest industry, automobiles, has been battered by global competition.

One of its largest employers, General Motors, lost $10.6 billion last year and has offered buyouts to more than 100,000 workers.

But fresh county population estimates from the Census Bureau show modest turnarounds in several other parts of the state. Sixty of Michigan's 83 counties have grown this decade, and 19 had population gains of at least 5%.

"It's an industrial state in significant transition," says Keith Schneider, deputy director of the Michigan Land Use Institute.

Michigan is moving away from manufacturing and tapping its intellectual base around universities and medical centers. It's not clear how the GM buyouts will affect migration and retirement patterns.

It was Michigan's great misfortune that Ronald Reagan's protectionist import quotas artificially propped up the American automobile industry. Happily, the two most recent presidents have been free traders.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 25, 2006 9:09 AM

Back in the early 80s, there were so many Michigan license plates in Texas, due to the auto slump up there and the oil and gas drilling boom down here, you would have thought it was one of the neighboring states, like Oklahoma, New Mexico or Louisiana. Not so this time, even though there's a major shortage of oilfield workers and the starting salaries being paid in a non-income tax state are pretty good, which shows the relative overall health of the national economy.

Posted by: John at April 25, 2006 10:44 AM

There is some speculation that the economic woes of Michigan could allow the GOP to pick up the governorship or Senate seat, especially with the Dem incumbents polling at or below 50%.

Posted by: AWW at April 25, 2006 10:56 AM

Quite true about the effects of protectionist import quotas, usually implemented because of an emotional focus on select "victims" without any thought to long term consequences.

Posted by: Ptah at April 25, 2006 11:09 AM

"The first JW Marriott luxury hotel in the Midwest and an art museum are under construction."

Yeah, but are the developers/JW Marriot floating the entire risk for the hotel, or is Grand Rapids giving "incentives" of some sort or another?

That ain't growth, OJ.

Posted by: Brad S at April 25, 2006 11:28 AM


No, it was just xenophobic hysteria.

Posted by: oj at April 25, 2006 11:33 AM

I disagree: I recollect it as typical labor union squawking about loss of jobs, and the Democrats still held the House, leading to typical Democrat greasing of the squeakiest wheels transporting the fattest wallets of their constituency. As I recollect, the xenophobia was unleashed on Japanese companies buying up American territory, but the effort to outlaw foreign ownership of same failed.

Posted by: Ptah at April 25, 2006 12:54 PM

Nope. Reagan negotiated the quotas informally. It wasn't Congress. The hysteria was for the same reaon you hate immigration or the recent ports flap--race.

Posted by: oj at April 25, 2006 2:14 PM

It took US over 20 years to get the Japs to allow our apples in.

I remember Newt saying if they didn't lighten up on stuff, our west coast ports would thoroughly inspect every single car entering.

Posted by: Sandy P at April 25, 2006 5:05 PM

And I never ever understood why the gov't didn't outsource checking the steel that comes thru customs to the steel industry. More jobs for them, stricter standards since they knew the diff between rolled and whatever and we could fine them from the get-go.

Posted by: Sandy P at April 25, 2006 5:07 PM

And look what that protectionism did to the Japanese economy.

Posted by: oj at April 25, 2006 5:11 PM